Hi Doc, hope you’re doing fine.
Long time lurker, first time writer. I met this girl back in April, before all this madness, and we really hit off. She gave me her number and over the next months we chatted almost daily.
We had a lot of things in common and we talked about many issues, some serious, some just chitchat, sharing memes and the music, movies and series we liked. Many times we spent all night long talking and having fun, even when be both had to get up early to work.
We had four dates before the outbreak of coronavirus and we didn’t see each other again because we both resolved to stay at home until this pandemic died off. So for the last months we only texted each other and nothing changed, we still talked a lot and things were cool. However, I began to notice she became less and less engaged in our conversations, taking a lot of time to text back or even leaving me on seen many times. Suddenly we didn’t talk for days, but then we would talk for three days in a row and then radio silence for a week. One day, I sent her a text and she left me on seen. I thought it was the new normal and she would reply a few hours later. But nothing. She was online almost all the time but she didn’t reply.
I asked a couple of days later if she was ok or if something happened (she told me before some health issues within her family and I got worried) and she left me on seen again. I didn’t bother her anymore, because maybe she was really busy or had something going on in her life or just didn’t want to talk to me anymore. A few days later I checked and her profile picture is gone, meaning she deleted me from her contacts. So, after solid three weeks, now it’s certain that what we had is over.
The thing is, we didn’t have a relationship and we weren’t really friends. Maybe we could have been. I’m highly inexperienced with girls and this was my first time getting to know someone. It was my first time sharing time and feelings with a girl and also the first time someone was interested in me. I guess I became too attached and more emotionally involved that her. Maybe I scared her away because of that. I liked/like her and this was the first time I had a crush or feelings for someone and I actually could get to know that person and like her for how she was.
I’ve had experienced infatuation, oneitis, crushes and all that, but it was always based on speculation or idealizations, never by discovering the personality of a girl, with her positive and not-so positive traits. This was the first time it was ‘real’. As I said, I know it wasn’t a relationship, but it feels like a breakup. Or what I imagine a breakup is like. It hurts so much. I’ve been crying a lot since things ended and I can’t even work. I only want to lie in bed all day and cry myself to sleep. Or just be there staring at the ceiling.
I feel also so ashamed for allowing this to affect me this much. She moved on easily, while I’m still mourning something that never existed. And to tbh, as the song says, I’m still crying, waiting and hoping she would text me back and things we’ll be normal again and each time I get a notification, my heart beats faster hoping is a text for her.
Is this normal for someone absolutely inexperienced in dating and relationships or I’m showing how immature, childish and overly emotional am I and that’s the reason why someone would leave me? It will take more time to get over her?
Heartbroken for No Reason
Alright, HNR, there really isn’t anything that anyone can say that’s going to make what you’re feeling hurt less. This is one of those times when, unfortunately, the only way out is through. While there are some best practices that help speed up the healing after a heartbreak, unfortunately, the pandemic means most of them are off-limits or too risky to pursue until after you’ve gotten the vaccine and the antibodies.
But while nobody can stop the pain for you, I can, at least, explain a few things for you that will help you get some perspective.
First and foremost: you’re feeling this way because it’s your first serious brush with heartbreak. You invested a lot in the idea of this woman and the idea of a relationship with her and then had it yanked away with no warning. When you haven’t had much experience with relationships, it’s all too easy to overinvest in someone; you’re so caught up in the rush of this new and novel experience that you don’t realize that you’re giving too much to somebody you barely know. And to forestall what I can already hear you saying: no, you don’t know her nearly as well as you think you do. Much of what has to do with that eagerness and excitement; you’re rushing to fill in the blanks without realizing it because it’s so new and exciting and you’re getting high as balls off oxytocin and dopamine. But after only a few weeks… you two are still virtual strangers to each other. You’re seeing the very polished version of them and vice versa. This doesn’t mean that you’re not that person or that they aren’t who they seem to be. It’s more that this is the version that you and she are hoping to live up to.
Now that’s going to make that first serious rejection hurt like a motherfucker in and of itself. But this is also happening during the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that everyone’s working with seriously reduced emotional bandwidth. All of those feelings are much closer to the surface and much louder than they would be otherwise, so it makes everything much more intense… especially those negative feelings of heartbreak, despair and loss. So yeah, this sort of thing is gonna hurt a lot more than it would otherwise. While knowing this doesn’t make it hurt less, it’s important to keep in mind that these aren’t normal circumstances. You’re basically dealing with having been dumped during a once-in-a-lifetime event, a perfect storm of suck that’s the emotional equivalent of pouring lemon juice on a paper cut.
The next thing to understand is that this sort of thing happens. You and your crush had a relatively intense but ultimately shallow connection. I get that this sounds judgemental, but this isn’t about the quality of your connection, it’s about time. You and she simply didn’t have enough time to really explore things together, get to know each other and see if there was enough there for the two of you to build something together. This is part of why it’s important to not overinvest in someone when you’re still very much in the “getting to know you” stage of dating; you’re setting yourself up to be hurt because these kinds of connections are like shooting stars: intense, bright and brief.
This was exacerbated by the fact that, well, COVID happened. And while there’s literally no way to plan for an event like this, major events have a tendency to kill relationships, especially fairly new ones. Sometimes a major life event — such as losing a loved one — cause the person dealing with the event to reexamine their priorities and decide they need to make changes to their life. Other times, it’s a major disruption to their lives and they find that they simply don’t have the time, patience or emotional bandwidth for a lot of things they did before. In this case, the fact that you went from being able to see each other in person — even if you didn’t get together often — to a de-facto long distance relationship blew up the emotional momentum you had. It sucks… but honestly, that’s life. Sometimes life throws bullshit in your path and the only thing you can do is try to avoid as much of it as you can.
Would this have happened if the pandemic and lockdown didn’t spring up? It’s impossible to say. It very well could be that you and she would’ve fizzled out anyway. But to be perfectly frank, there’s no point in speculating because in the end not only is there no way to know, but it’s a pointless exercise.
Here is the third thing you need to know: a lot of what you’re feeling is coming from your hurting your own feelings. You don’t know what she’s thinking or what she’s doing. You’re making assumptions about her motivations and actions because it hurts you and fits into a narrative you’ve created for yourself. It’s much easier to assume that this is all because you’re “unworthy” because you have full and continual access to the inside of your own head and no access to hers. So you create rationales and stories that fit what you are feeling right now; you’re feeling ashamed and pathetic and so you end up building up this idea that this must be why she cut ties. But the fact is that feels aren’t reals, my dude. Your feelings are intense, but they’re not the same as facts and they do alter your memories and interpretation of events. The real truth is: you don’t know and you will likely never know and that’s ok. Sometimes shit happens and there’s nothing to do. There’s no lesson to be learned, just moments to be lived through, endured and put behind you.
Because the truth is that relationships end — sometimes because you got dumped, sometimes because you did the dumping and sometimes because it just fades like the fog in the morning. The fact that a relationship ended doesn’t mean that you did something wrong or that you were unworthy; many end simply because they reached their natural conclusion. Not every relationship is meant to be forever and that is fine. Not every love story is an epic poem. Some are meant to be short stories. Some are just dirty limericks. Some never get off the ground in the first place, and often because you and they weren’t right for each other in some way. There’s no good guy or bad guy or way you could’ve avoided it; it was just the story of two people who didn’t click the way they would need to in order to work as a couple. Even if one of them wanted to, very badly.
So for now, take your time to mourn and feel the fuck out of your feels. But you want to avoid wallowing; the more you beat yourself up about how you fucked this up and how pathetic you are, the worse you make it on yourself. Instead, just accept that this sucks and it feels bad… but it’s only for now. I realize it is cold comfort in this moment, but this will pass. And it’ll pass all the faster if you don’t treat it as a referendum on you as a person — it isn’t. There’re things you could do better — not overinvesting, as I said — but that’s the sort of thing that can only be learned through experience.
In the meantime: find the things that occupy your mind and keep your attention elsewhere. Find activities that are manifestly good for you — whether it’s putting that energy towards a couch-to-5k program, picking up a new hobby or taking time to read some really awesome books. Do things that feed your soul and help you feel like you’re becoming the version of yourself you want to be in the future, and the pain you’re feeling will fade before you realize it. This sucks, no question. But all of this is just a speed-bump. It’s a learning experience we all have to go through. You’ll survive this, you’ll come through on the other side and be a little wiser, a little more cautious and ready to try again. You’re not a loser, HNR; you’re just someone who loved not too wisely but too well.
You’ll get past this. You’ll be ok. I promise.
All will be well.
This is one of those times where you and your boyfriend are gonna have to sit down and have an Awkward Conversation, THUID. It’s clear that there’s a disconnect somewhere between the two of you about your long-term goals and that disconnect is making things uncomfortable for you. Carving out time to sit down, explain why moving in together is important to you, why you get anxious about this open-endedness and why you would like some clarity is going to be important. But it’s also going to be important to let him have his say — including being willing to give him space to share any worries or misgivings he may have without judgement. And to make it clear that he can express any worries or anxieties he may have without having to worry that it’s going to blow up the relationship. And that may include being willing to hear that he doesn’t want to live together or that he has worries about it.
Often when you run into a situation like this, where one partner is giving vague or non-committal answers to future plans, the issue is that either they don’t want to do the thing and they’re afraid to say so… or there’s some aspect to it that bothers them, but they worry that bringing it up is going to destroy the relationship. But because they know that it’s important to the other partner, they try to give just enough to satisfy the partner without actually committing to something in a way that doesn’t allow them to kick that proverbial can down the road a little further.
The problem is: you can only kick it down the road so long before you run out of time and then someone calls the question. And when that happens, nobody has dealt with what the actual issues are and so everything gets incredibly messy and instead of an awkward conversation, you end up having a potential relationship extinction-level event instead.
It sounds to me like your boyfriend isn’t keen on the idea of living together. The big question is… why, exactly? You’ve been together for four year and change, so it’s hardly an issue of being commitment averse. In the spirit of honesty, it could be that he’s trying to slow-walk out of the relationship and thus doesn’t want to move in together. But while that may be a nightmare scenario, it’s not the only possibility, nor even the most likely one. It may be that he likes a certain amount of alone time or unstructured freedom and living together makes that more difficult. It could be that he doesn’t like the idea of what living with another person may mean for him and his lifestyle, structure or routine. He may feel like circumstances are bad for trying to move in together, especially if that means having to give up his place and going through the hell that is apartment or house hunting. Or there may be some emotional association he has with shacking up that gives him pause; maybe he’s seen too many of his friends’ relationships fall apart after everyone moved in together and he’s worried that’ll happen to the two of you.
So when you have the Awkward Conversation, you want to share your side of things — making it clear that this is just how you feel, not blaming him or accusing him. You want to share why you feel like this is important to you, what an ideal solution would be and why this would make things better for the both of you. But then, give him his space to share his side openly, honestly and without interruption until he’s done, just as he did for you.
And when you’ve heard each others’ sides and are sure you understand where the other is coming from… it’ll be time to try to see if there’s a way to resolve the issue. And to be clear: resolving the issue doesn’t automatically mean “finding a compromise that allows the two of you to finally move in together”. Just as he should give consideration to moving in with you, you should be asking yourself whether not living under the same roof is an absolute dealbreaker for you. While living together is something most couples move towards, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessary for the relationship. There are couples who don’t share a bedroom and instead have their own space. There’re couples — including married couples — who don’t live together. They live close to one another — sometimes in the same apartment building or condo, sometimes even in adjoining duplexes — but they both have their own separate homes and they’re all the happier for it. Not living under the same roof doesn’t make their relationship any less valid or any less committed; it’s just how they’ve decided to structure their relationship.
That’s the great thing about relationships; you and your partner get to set your own rules and figure out what works for you.
So make that appointment to have The Awkward Conversation. Be willing to be open and honest and non-judgemental with each other, even if it’s scary. And then be willing to ask yourself how much you’re both willing to bend on this particular subject. It may be that there’s some way to assuage whatever worries he has. Or there may be a way of making things work even if you don’t live together in the traditional sense.
And one last thing: while you don’t want to use The Awkward Conversation as a way of kicking the can even further down the road, you don’t need to have an answer immediately. You and your boyfriend may need to give yourselves a little time to really chew on things, process what you’ve had to say and then start working towards a solution. That’s a lot easier to do if you don’t feel like you have to have that solution by the end of of business that day. Giving yourselves a some space to process, a little room to see how you feel and then come back to the topic. That extra time may make all the difference.